The final four T&D Region football teams yet to start South Carolina Independent School Association play for this season will kick off their seasons on Friday, highlighting Week One play.
Orangeburg Prep enters its second straight season in the Class 2A ranks, playing its first game at Greenwood Christian, a growing program that was state runner-up in the 8-man ranks in 2015 and won a 2A playoff game last postseason.
It will be the fourth season for the Indians program under the leadership of head coach Andy Palmer.
"We've had a good preseason so far, with a couple jamboree games and scrimmages we fared well in," Palmer said Wednesday. "We had a scrimmage at Bethesda last week that showed us where we had to do some work, and we focused on that part of the game this week.
"We're excited about kicking off for the 2019 season and the seniors have been with us since we came to the program."
Improving on a 5-5 season in 2018 is the goal.
"We're exactly where we need to be at this point, and I think we've got it covered on offense, defense and special teams to start the season," Palmer said. "We've been moving into game shape, but game speed is game speed, and it's diferent than scrimmage games.
"We will find out on Friday night how in shape we are. We have a roster that is 31 deep, so subs will need to come in and play well for us."
Senior Will Shaw is expected to handle most of the quarterbacking duties for the Indians, while senior Will Summers will be relied on as a main playmaker in the backfield, at wide receiver and on defense from his linebacker slot.
The offensive line will be anchored by seniors Andrew Felkel, Harrison Miller, Billy Workman, David Jones and junior Kenneth Fogle.
Coach Palmer sees A.J. Tolbert as an "X factor at skill positions" and, with some recent injuries at skill positions, the Indians will rely on senior RB/LB Amari Bryant and junior Peyton Inabinet more often, at least early in the season.
"We'll be a little bit different on offense, as far as spreading things out a bit more than in the past," Palmer said, noting that Greg Fanning is the offensive coordinator after years coaching the junior varsity offense. "Defensively, we will probably move people around a lot more than we have in the past.
"Opening up on the road is probably good for us, making it more business as usual. The way I see it, even though we beat Greenwood Christian last year, it's going to be a challenge for both teams Friday night."
Andrew Jackson Academy - winner of three consecutive 8-man state championships before losing the title game to Beaufort Academy last season - opens the season at W.W. King Academy in Batesburg on Friday.
The Confederates are led by athletic director and first-year head football coach Jason Peek. Allen Sitterle, who coached AJA to state title wins in 2015 and 2016 and returned after a one-year hiatus to lead the Confederates back to the state title game and a 10-1 record a season ago, has left the sideline and team for the stands and family. Sitterle plans to attend Bamberg-Ehrhardt games this season to support his grandson, Hunter Bridges, the senior quarterback for the Red Raiders.
"We ended up last year with a 2-point loss in the state championship, finishing as state runner-up after three straight title wins," Peek said. "But, basically this is a new team with new goals.
"We always want to win. With coach Sitterle leaving, we support his decision and most of us have been a part of what he has done while he was here. We just want to carry that winning tradition on further."
AJA only had 4 seniors on the 2018 team. So with 22 players on the current roster, including 10 seniors, there is considerable playing experience throughout the lineup. Not all were a part of the state-leading 48-game winning streak that lasted into the title game last season. But 8 seniors and a few others had a part in a good many of those wins.
"We're still going to be based on same principals that we've won with," Peek said. "We are a run team that looks to throw the ball a little bit, so we will do what works, depending on how teams defend us."
Tailback Trey Pulaski, quarterback Colyn Peek, along with fellow seniors Drake Mathias and Bryce Waltz are among the ones who have been a part of the AJA football foundation that has been built in recent seasons.
Also back are top producing underclassmen in sophomores Clay "Bug" Brunson and Jonathan Schaffer, along with juniors Kevin Barnes and Tucker Cook.
"They've been through it with us, and you can't teach experience," coach Peek said.
Added to the mix this season are senior transfers James Mingo (Barnwell), a wide receiver and tailback, and Adam Creswell (Hampton), a running back and linebacker.
"The last four years we took an approach that everyone was going to give us their best game, everybody wants to knock you off, so we expect everybody's best game," coach Peek said. "I've been pleased with everybody meshing so well as a team in the preseason. Hopefully that stays through the season. Our goal is to get better each week. Unity as a team is the goal.
"Every year, moving to play 11-man (football) is always a possibility. We went through spring practice as an 11-man team, but it was best for us to stay with 8-man, what we're used to, for now."
AJA will try to build up another win streak this season, hoping to be unbeaten when the first day of November gets here and they take on Holly Hill Academy.
HHA is looking to rebound after a 1-9 season, led by second-year head coach Tommy Breland. The Raiders open against another team of Raiders this Friday, playing at Jefferson Davis Academy in Blackville.
A season ago, HHA lost to JDA (an eventual 11-win team) 30-14 to open the season, before taking eventual state champion Beaufort Academy into overtime in a 49-42 loss three weeks later.
The plan is for HHA to be in better position to win close games this season.
Clarendon Hall went 9-2 last season and only lost to then 3-time defending state champion AJA by 8 points in playoffs. The Saints - from Summerton, but with many players from Orangeburg County - have 8 seniors on this years team, with hopes of taking another step in playoffs and reaching the state title game.
A season ago, Clarendon Hall defeated eventual state champion Beaufort Academy, then only lost to Jefferson Davis Academy in the regular season, before falling to AJA in the second round of playoffs.
The Saints open at home against Beaufort Academy with a true early test on Friday.
8/30 - at Greenwood Christian
9/6 - vs. Christian Academy
You have free articles remaining.
9/13 - vs. Florence Christian
9/20 - at Hilton Head Prep
9/27 - at Porter-Gaud
10/4 - vs. John Paul II
10/11 - vs. Hilton Head Christian
10/18 - at Spartanburg Christian
10/25 - vs. Oakbrook Prep
11/1 - at Northwood Academy
ANDREW JACKSON ACADEMY
8/30 - at W.W. King Academy
9/6 - vs. Calhoun Academy
9/13 - at Jefferson Davis Academy
9/20 - vs. St. John's Christian
9/27 - vs. Patrick Henry
10/4 - at Palmetto Christian
10/11 - at Beaufort Academy
10/18 - vs. Faith/Ridge Christian
10/25 - at Cathedral Academy
11/1 - vs. Holly Hill Academy
HOLLY HILL ACADEMY
8/30 - at Jefferson Davis Academy
9/6 - vs. Clarendon Hall
9/13 - at Calhoun Academy
9/20 - vs. Beaufort Academy
9/27 - vs. Cathedral Academy
10/4 - at Patrick Henry Academy
10/11 - vs. Palmetto Christian Academy
10/18 - at St. John's Christian Academy
10/25 - vs. Faith/Ridge Christian
11/1 - at Andrew Jackson Academy
8/30 - vs. Beaufort Academy
9/6 - at Holly Hill Academy
9/13 - at Patrick Henry Academy
9/20 - vs. Calhoun Academy
9/27 - vs. Richard Winn Academy
10/4 - vs. Laurens Academy
10/11 - vs. Tri-Academy
10/18 - at Wardlaw Academy
10/25 - vs. Jefferson Davis Academy
11/1 - at W.W. King Academy